Too painful to watch – Fozzy

David Cuffley Skipper Mark Fotheringham can hardly bear to watch this season's Championship play-offs - convinced that Norwich City could give all the promotion contenders a run for their money.

David Cuffley

Skipper Mark Fotheringham can hardly bear to watch this season's Championship play-offs - convinced that Norwich City could give all the promotion contenders a run for their money.

The Canaries have only just secured their place in the division for 2008-09 thanks to Saturday's home victory over Queen's Park Rangers, and are 13 points adrift of the top six, but back in February the gap was just four points.

A miserable March threatened to undo all the progress made during a 13-match unbeaten run under Glenn Roeder, but three wins in the last four home games made City safe.

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And the 24-year-old Scot still believes they would have been a match for whoever goes into the end-of-season showpiece.

“We've always believed that on our day we can beat any team in the league and for the last month and a half, I feel we've been unlucky against the better teams like West Bromwich Albion, and Bristol City away,” said Fotheringham.

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“The most disappointing thing for me is going to be when we're watching the play-offs because we know we can more than match the teams who are in that situation and that is where we want to be, the Premier League. We're all hungry for it.”

Fotheringham was speaking at the launch of City's new three-year Aviva sponsorship deal at Carrow Road yesterday - and modelling the new kit. But, out of contract in the summer, will he be wearing it next season?

“Yes, I would hope so. I look to be here next season and wear the strip but it's not up to me,” he said. “It's up to the club and the agent to sort out the contract. In terms of myself, I want to be here, so I hope they can get it done as soon as possible.”

Sunday's final Championship game at Hillsborough has huge significance for opponents Sheffield Wednesday, who may need to win to stay up, while City are out of danger. But Fotheringham stressed that he and his team-mates had a duty to themselves, their fans and the rest of the relegation-threatened clubs to fight tooth and nail against the Owls.

“A lot of the lads feel a big pressure has been lifted off their shoulders, but we put ourselves in that position. We should have put it to bed a lot earlier but it was really nice to get the win against QPR,” he said.

“We need to go up to Sheffield Wednesday and put on a performance and get the season finished on a high. We need to keep a winning mentality in the squad.

“We've got people who will be travelling a long way up to Sheffield to watch us, so we'll try to put on a performance, especially for the guys who are leaving and obviously Dion Dublin's big send-off.

“We'll be preparing like we normally prepare for games. On Monday, the training was really high. There were tackles flying in as usual and that's with us knowing we are safe. But that's the environment that's here now. We know the standards that are set.

“If we don't perform, none of us will be at this club next season. It's as simple as that. Even the last game of the season, there will be guys who are trying to impress the manager for a new contract, myself included. There will be lads there who could be trying to impress other clubs or lads who feel they've not been given a fair crack and they'll want to try to force the manager's hand for next season, so there's so much to play for.”

Fotheringham, who was sidelined for three months between August and November by an ankle injury, admitted he had mixed feelings about the fact the season was coming to an end.

“I'm personally dying to keep playing because I missed a lot of football at the start of the season. I was devastated when I got this knock against Southampton and for me I don't want the season to end, but I know it's been a long season for some guys,” he said.

“Saying that, it gives us a chance to regroup in the summer and we'll obviously find out what's happening in the next couple of weeks, with who's staying and all that. But this club's a huge club and it should be challenging for the Premier League next season.

“It's set up for it. The people who run the club are superb and I hope the manager can strengthen in the summer. I think personally we're really lucky to have him. I think he's the best manager in the league and we've got the best backroom staff in Lee Clark and Paul Stephenson.”

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